Friday, 19 June 2015

Spice Island fever and the ABC’s

Returning to Grenada, the Spice Island, we were all very stoked to be anchored close enough to be able to paddle over to the surf break. The break was fairly shallow over a reef and we were privileaged enough to get it working for a week. 
Salem who has only really had experience of being pushed into waves back home, was out there for hours paddling into waves, getting then getting rolled, and spending the next 20 minutes or so paddling back out, over and over.  He was catching and riding a few by the end of the week.  Eli was catching and riding more waves than I could, like he hadn’t been without surf for the last year or so.  Dave was up to his usual high standards (if I don’t say so myself!) and I got to have a few sessions to ourselves and the boys got to have a few sessions with some newly acquainted Hog island friends.  After a bit of a stressful sail around the point to get there, it was a nice reprive and a great reminder that this was what we were really aiming for.
A couple of underwater shots before our camera gave out on us..
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Discovered a very efficient washing technique for clothes: tip clothes into cockpit with rolled up foam plug in, tip in washing liquid and loads of salt water.  Add kids and mix well. When the novelty wears off, the rocking of the boat acts as a great agitator also!  I’m not overly convinced on the efficiency of the washing liquid in salt water though, really going to have to research that one.
Hog island anchorage had heaps of families, where some newly acquainted good friends of ours were living on their boat.  Bit of a makeshift bar set up with a few bbqs out under the trees, it was a very popular hang out.
Stage below often hosted local musicians.

Boys loved hanging out here, playing soccer, paddling on kayaks, sailing dinghies etc.
Loved the cheap abundance of bananas and grapefruit, yellow and pink.  A real treat for us were the big guavas, big yellow skinned passionfruit, and the unusual pink skinned “wax apples” that are very crunchy, sweet yet fresh tasting.  Dave commented they’re a bit like peas crossed with pears!!
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Eli enjoying the soursop, soft and sweet.
After much deliberation, work, and fun with our friends, we saw what looked to be a good weather window to get us to the “B” island of the Netherland Antilles, Bonaire: not too stronger winds over a period of three to four days with some heavy weather at the end, by the time we should’ve landed. 
Clearing out at Customs, St Georges, Grenada.
Left late afternoon on a high note, the wind was way too light for our gaff-rig to get much speed.  By the following day we had only done 64 nautical miles.  The boys were very sad about leaving their friends and we considered turning around and going back, thoughts of the upcoming weather playing in the back of our minds.  We decided to press on, we needed to know we could break the overnight sail and get over seasickness after three days like everyone said should happen.  The wind did eventually pick up, making for a more pleasant and enjoyable trip.
Loads of living algae, would stretch for miles.
Hitchhikers: on about the third day, this bird arrived while dark and we could barely make out its' form, stayed with us for a number of hours.  We also discovered some unusual stowaways…
the interesting side of salt water intake.. seems we have crabs, Captain!
Eden was not sick in the slightest and was full of energy and always hungry.  Dave, Eli and I got over the sickness/ seedy feeling somewhere between 2-3 days, although weren’t overly hungry during that time.  Salem would try the odd cracker etc then spew it up so decided he would eat nothing.  He was drinking water thankfully but looked rather grim by the time we landed..
The last 12 hours of the fifth day was rather gnarly, got caught up in the strong winds and big seas.  We felt that even though Ula would round up a bit after each wave passed, she felt very stable, holding well, not feeling like we would broach at all.  All the same, we were definitely on high alert, got the boys downstairs (much to their disapproval), so we could concentrate.  We stayed up all night instead of taking shifts, for mental and moral support as we tweaked the auto-pilot (thank God for our auto-pilot!) back and forth to deal with each wave, (as they would often come from different directions), deal with the strong gusts of wind and try to keep our course from veering toward one of the nearby, very low lying islands. 
3am we got in behind the south tip of Bonaire, blocking the swell and took shifts catching up on some much needed sleep as we drifted along with the current and headsail.
The next challenge, just after 7am was our first attempt to pick up a mooring in a very closely packed mooring field.  Because Bonaire is a National Marine Park, anchoring anywhere is prohibited, you have to pick up one of their specially marked moorings just outside the main centre of Kralendijk.  Thankfully, someone saw us, jumped in their dinghy and helped us pick one up.
It was a very interesting experience, having always been the furthest out the back of any anchorage for fear of dragging or swinging and hitting someone.  We were now very close to the centre of town and at the front of everyone!
Eli coming in to pick me up from a grocery expedition.
The water was surprisingly cooler and refreshing, but amazingly clear.
Even snorkelling here in the centre of town was like swimming through an aquarium.  Unfortunately, our waterproof camera had died sometime earlier so you’ll just have to take our word for it or check it out yourself:)
The Venezuelan market, right on the waterfront.
Check out the white skull at the feet of the..Saint?!
A real mix of South America and Europe here, Bonaire is still governed by Holland.  All locals seem to be fluent in Spanish, Dutch, English and the local language, Papiamento, which seems to be a mix of everything to me!
Coconut car wash! Don’t know if it was just the name or they actually used some derivative of coconut.

Governors’ House.
These paintings were on the plywood barrier surrounding a building site:
Painting of the tiny slave houses located further south, unfortunately, bit too far for us to check out on foot in the very hot, dusty conditions.
The cafe in the background had hammock chairs and palm trees, looked very cool.
Outside one of the supermarkets.

The big black form below is our mooring block.  Check out the funky bus on the road behind!
The iguanas seemed to love hanging out by rubbish bins.  We’re enjoying seeing lots of lizzards.
Here’s a bit of an eye test challenge: there is a rust coloured fish, (a trumpet fish, I think) hovering vertically next to the concrete pile.  It actually swims like that, quite comical!
We headed across to the Netherland Antilles “C” island, Curacao, taking us about 10 hours, this actually put our sailing hours over the 1000 nautical miles!!
A typical scene of the boys’ attitude to sailing at the moment: Eli: “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do”. 
Salem: not feeling overly flash, taken up his usual lying around, iguana stance. 
Eden: full of beans, still wants to eat lots, at this point is telling us the constantly changing numbers on the screen of how fast we are going, which he wants everybody to know about!

Entering Spaanse Water through a channel, was an interesting experience, given the narrowness in places and the amount  of traffic about in the form of sailing dinghies, boats, and windsurfers going in all directions.
First place we anchored we ended up in a very busy, not well marked channel where big tour boats were returning.  Our chain had just been laid out when two large catamarans and a large ferry type boat, full of tourists, had to go around the side of us while we slowly tried to wind in the anchor on the manual windlass!  Second place was very windy and we were dragging. 
Third place we were swirling but staying put, had the small bay to ourselves.  A little spooky at first if we let our imagination get the better of us, as there were four other sunken boats in the bay!  This made us all the more diligent about getting secured but at least there was less wind and no boats to drag into.
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Fisherman’s dinghy dock.

The very nice proprietor kindly offered for us to check out the Pirate’s Nest while waiting for the bus.  It sits over the water, has a lot of interesting things for a bar/restaurant.
IMG_20150611_105152There was a turtle, barracuda, tuna and some other very large fish cruising around.  Also a very large lobster in the next spot .


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Much to our disappointment, this was not our bus, only for paying, sightseeing tourists!
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Headed into Willemstad for clearing in which is a twin city: Punda on one side of the channel and Outrabanda on the other.
The “Floating Market” has apparently been running for hundreds of years: the Venezuelans come over in their boats, loaded with produce and fish to sell here.
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Heading along waterfront toward the Queen Emma Floating Pontoon Bridge.  Salem looks at the people eating at the cafe tables as he dutifully eats his banana!
Walking across the pontoon bridge towards Outrabanda.
On our way back from Immigration, bit of a walk from Customs.
Had to wait as the tug pulled the bridge open for another boat to come through.
Downtown Punda.
The waterfront of Punda.
Juice shack on outskirts of town.
Dave wondering how he could make this his office!
Dave sorting a stern line in the  dinghy, to try and steady us some more-we were slowly but surely dragging toward some rather large underwater rocks.  Eden decided to swim over! 
After the clear water of Grenada and Bonaire, we found ourselves already a bit snobby toward the silty water of the harbour. (No different from the water of our hometown Gisborne!) The heat got the better of us though and we were surprised to find the water here was the warmest yet!
Exploring the neighborhood..



Spot Ula..  The hill is where we climbed to for the following views..
The view of the channel we had to negotiate to enter Spaanse Water.
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Bit of an idea of the harbour.  There are only certain areas you are allowed to anchor in, costing US$10 for three months.  There are other anchorages we can go to, but they cost US$10 for three nights and we have to pay in advance with the exact dates.  Much more affordable than the US$10 per night at Bonaire.
The good ship Ula in the anchorage in the foreground, the surprisingly quiet oil rig just over the hill.
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The walk up the hill was very dry, arid, volcanic, harsh ground. Where there was soil, it was a deep red/orange, lots of thorny trees and cacti, imagine Mexico to be something like this.  Also reminded us of the Coromandel back home for the volcanic side of things.
Heading back to the boat, via the derelict one. (Our dinghy tied up on the other side.)
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Exploring the other side, turns out there’s a fort we weren’t aware of..
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Was surprising how clear and clean the water looked in spite of the oil rig operating right there.
Now you can see where we’ll be hanging out for the next two months.  We have decided to haul out at a boat yard/bay further north, in August.  The boys have been talking a lot about NZ and we are getting low on cash.  Our plan, God willing, is to work for a year and a half then continue on bringing Ula closer to home.  Bit of an expensive way to do things but we don’t have a mortgage (my parents are graciously putting us up in our home-made cabin-see earlier post) and in spite of many stressful moments, I think (I hope) this has had a lot of benefits to us as a family in the long run.
Dave and I have realised we have more skills than we previously had, the boys have experienced other cultures, and a lifestyle they never knew existed, we’ve met some awesome people along the way, our faith as a family has definitely been tested and hopefully strengthened.
I hope it will be a good balance of enjoying the great food, friends, family, surf, ease of life in NZ, then in a year or so when our memories of seasickness and being scared and stressed have blurred and only the good memories remain, we will be ready for some more adventure…
but, I guess, time will tell.

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